"Aging" in Place - Being able to live at home

If you were lucky enough to buy a home to raise a family in you were probably fairly agile and feeling invincible. Now that the family is grown you might be looking to spend your retirement years in the same house with all of your wonderful memories.

That was the way we looked at our home, it was the place we were going to raise our children, pay off the mortgage and live out the rest of our days. However several years ago, ironically for a newspaper assignment, I researched and wrote an article on "Aging in Place", I should have memorized my own words.

While I was conscious of some of our lovely home's limitations, we just weren't there YET to worry about... but as you read in my intro, medical disaster struck and so long as Mark had to rely on a wheelchair he wasn't able to come home.

(the following applies to private residences — house or apartment)

Believe it or not stairs are an easy obstacle to get around (in many cases) — there are (relatively costly) feasible home elevators for 2-story homes usually requiring no more than an upstairs and downstairs closet; there are also (more affordable) stair-chair lifts that fit most home stairs. Outside entrances can be tackled with ramps (check with your local municipal ordinances for building guidelines including length and pitch).

Bathrooms can be temporarily or permanently modified to accommodate. Using "Durable Medical Goods" (DME) there are transfer seats (for getting into and out of the bathtub, walk-in showers, grab bars in the shower/tub and around the toilet seat, hand-held shower-heads, and raised toilet seats.Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the DME equipment, so ask. Access to residential sinks may need a change of vanity.

The biggest problem we had in our home was structural including the width of the hallways and the width of the doorways. If your interior doorway frame is wide enough you might be able to remove the door and replace it with a curtain. While this is not a REQUIREMENT in a single dwelling privat e residence, these are suggested guidelines for wheelchair accessibility: an open door should have a minimum of 32-inches to allow for the average wheelchair to get through it; hallways should also be a minimum of 32-inches for passage; wherever the wheelchair user needs to turn or enter a doorway he/she should have enough turning radius. Ramps should also be installed for any door stoop or sliding door frame that is more than 3/4-inch high.

Whether your survivor comes home in a wheelchair, using crutches or cane, or with a visual deficit, make sure that pathways are clear, rugs aren't loose, and passageways (especially stairs) are illuminated.

Public facilities, shelters and dwellings with more than five units have ADA standards that must be complied with depending on their use and year of construction. Before you head out to restaurants, museums, motels or theaters (examples) be sure to call ahead and ask if facilities are accessible for your survivor's particular needs.

for more information

Aging in Place: Growing Old at Home
How to Make Your Home Handicap Accessible

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